Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan’s departure, after five months of war, has set many developments in motion. It has opened the floodgates of analysis and interpretation. Many questions about his departure from the Army Command headquarters persist, including those about how he left to the steps that will and what comes next. The most prominent question, the central question, is: Will his departure give rise to a negotiated solution or escalation?
Before attempting to try find an answer, a brief overview of how it all happened could be useful, as it helps shed light on the objectives. If his departure was part of a regional and international deal or arrangement, as some circles have claimed, a negotiated solution to end the war would seem likely. However, if he left through a military operation, the potential outcomes, including escalation, would be endless.
His speech which addressed the officers and soldiers at the Flamingo Naval Base on Monday suggests that Burham was keen on responding to some of the interpretations that have emerged. He affirmed a military operation allowed for his departure from the headquarters of the General Command of the Armed Forces, that soldiers from various units of the army had participated in this operation, and that martyrs had fallen.
The Rapid Support Forces’ apparent surprise and confusion following the operation give credence to his claims. Indeed, until the eve of the operation, their spokesmen were reiterating that Burhan had been besieged in his headquarters and could hardly move a few meters. When the clips of Burhan in Omdurman emerged, the RSF began claiming that Burhan had fled for fear of his headquarters falling after the Armored Corps Base. The RSF had indeed made a breakthrough early on, but the tables subsequently turned through the counteroffensive of the armed forces.
We should also note that Burhan also took a hard line in his speech in Port Sudan, which also points to the likelihood of escalation and undermines claims that a negotiated solution has been agreed to. Indeed, other figures in the armed forces have said that the balance of the battles in Khartoum is tipping in their favor, which was deployed soldiers in new locations. In his speech, Burhan poured cold water on the “comprehensive solution” that Rapid Support Forces have claimed is imminent on X, stating that he would not make deals “with any party that has betrayed the country” and that the army is working on “deciding the war,” which is close to coming to an end.
In the speech he gave the day before yesterday in Cairo, the first stop on his foreign tour, he hit back at the Rapid Support Forces once again. However, he struck a slightly more conciliatory tone, albeit with deliberate ambiguity. He said that the armed forces are keen “on putting an end to this war, putting an end to this tragedy,” without repeating what he said at the Flamingo Naval Base about the hostilities ceasing through “decisive” action rather than negotiations.
The delegation that accompanied Burhan on his visit to Cairo included more military figures than politicians ; it included three officials, namely the Director of the General Intelligence Service, Lieutenant General Ahmed Ibrahim Mufaddal, the Director General of the Defense Industries System, Lieutenant General Mirghani Idris Suleiman, and Foreign Affairs Minister Ambassador Ali Al-Sadiq.
This suggests discussions were not focused on negotiations. Burhan said that he wanted to put the Egyptians “in the picture” regarding the situation in Sudan, meaning that he relayed the army’s assessment of the recent course of events and where the top brass believes things are headed. Furthermore, the presence of the Director General of the Defense Industries System suggests that the military wants to enhance its capabilities as it fights on several fronts in Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan.
In his speech, Burhan also stressed that the delegation wants the world to “look at this war objectively”, and added that the war “was launched by a faction that had sought to seize power.” He sent three messages in his speech “to reassure Sudan’s friends and neighbors.” Firstly, he sought - as he had in his Port Sudan speech - to dispel accusations that the army is a haven for the Kezan (Muslim Brotherhood), which he claims has become the “boogie man of all those who want to destroy the Sudanese people.” This is in reference to RSF claims that they are at war with “remnants.”
The second message is that they are “seeking an end to the war.” The third is that the army does not want to keep ruling the country and only intends to oversee the transitional period before holding free and fair elections.
Nothing Burhan has said or done, thus far, affirms that he seeks a negotiated solution. In fact, the grave tone of his speeches suggests the contrary, at least at the present time. His discussion of a “new” transitional period suggests that he may be to form a caretaker government, especially since no one is happy with the current government. Indeed, most people can hardly sense its presence and do not know the names of most of its ministers.
Perhaps the army leadership believes that forming a government would, on the one hand, satisfy the citizens complaining about the continued absence of the executive and the lack of state services at a time when their suffering is intensifying; and hit back, on the other, at that the claims of some neighbors - such as Kenya and Ethiopia - that there is a “leadership vacuum” in Khartoum,.
However, forming a government will not be achieved without overcoming obstacles or problems, even if the criteria is competence. Assuming that most of the Sudanese would welcome the government if it bring basic services, these obstacles are overcome, Burhan and the military command would still face the problem of making arrangements for the transitional period. This would inevitably require engaging civic forces, and before that, ending the war. How this is done will determine many things in the coming period.